On Jenny Eclair and responsibility
Some things annoy me disproportionately.
A few weeks ago a I had a really shit weekend. And on the Monday, I had a comedy show to run and MC. The last thing I wanted to do was get up on stage and be all nice and jolly and try and make a room of people laugh. I contemplated pulling the gig. For about three seconds. Then realised that would make me a cunt.
‘The show must go on’. It’s old cliche, but for some reason it’s one I believe in with a level of fervour. Perhaps it’s just general politeness. If you advertise a show and then pull it, you’re inconveniencing a bunch of people who had planned to go to that show. You’re ruined their plans for the night. If nothing else it’s rude. In my case it was probably just thirty or so people, most of whom wouldn’t have really minded. But still, the principle of the thing stands. Especially if you’re then going to go and ask them to come to future shows.
It’s a principle that I feel I apply fairly. Yes, I used it to mock Oasis when Liam cancelled gigs because he felt like being a dick. But I also dragged my favourite band, James, over the coals when they cancelled a show due to the singer having hurt his back and being told he couldn’t dance. Everyone else seemed to think that was perfectly reasonable. I didn’t understand why they couldn’t just get him a chair. In that case the crowd would have been robbed of the delight of singer Tim Booth’s insane dance moves, but when it comes down to it, he’s not Bez. His job is to sing, not to dance, and he was perfectly capable of doing that.
Still, that was a borderline case. And obviously there are circumstances where pulling the show is the only option: if the performer is genuinely too ill to perform then not much can be done about it. Unless you’re Frank Turner when you just perform anyway before running backstage, throwing up and fainting two songs before the end, then apologise profusely and try and sort out free tickets for a future gig for people.
Some cases though, aren’t borderline at all. If you’ve been avoiding it (good for you) you won’t be aware that Jenny Eclair has joined the cast of I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here. Even if you are, there’s a good chance that what you don’t know is that she cancelled 11 tour dates, including one on the afternoon of the gig itself, in order to get on the show. So what happened? It’s hard to say exactly as none of what she’s said about it makes any sense, but it seems she was on a list of eight reserves, who were flown over to Australia as potential replacements.
Now while I’m no fan of the show, I can see why she’d want to do it. It’s a big profile booster. It’ll help her sell more tickets for the rest of the tour. But the show is about two weeks long. Even if you’re a reserve, it can’t be hard to just avoid booking anything else in on those weeks. She basically knew there was a chance she couldn’t do the shows, but let the promoters and her audience continue to think she would until the day of the first show. Which frankly is hugely unprofessional and shows a disgusting level of contempt for her fans and the venues that booked her.
Still, I’d have let it pass. I’d have shut up because other people do this sort of thing all the time and why make a big deal of it. Then I read the official statement her spokesperson gave: “Jenny apologises profusely to all her followers and ticket holders who will be were planning to see her. She has never cancelled a live show before in over 20 years of performing and hopes her fans appreciate these are very exceptional, unexpected circumstances and looks forward to seeing everyone again very soon.” Sounds fairly reasonable, let’s just re-read a bit of that “exceptional, unexpected circumstances”... oh no, my mistake, it’s a bare-faced lie. If you’re booked as a reserve on a reality TV show, it’s not ‘unexpected’ if you’re then asked to go on it. It’s… what’s the word? “expected”. That’s it. Lovely of them to just insult the intelligence of her fans there.
My advice? If you’re a theatre comedy booker, and thinking of booking Jenny Eclair, check that the date doesn’t clash with any celebrity reality TV shows, as there’s a good chance that the producers of said show won’t actually want her to be on it but might end up asking her to do it if someone more famous drops out.
Dean would also like to point out that no, he didn’t have tickets for one of the cancelled shows, and you’re wrong, he really does rate Jenny Eclair as a comic